web analytics
April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘CPA’

Granting Tuition Reductions In Day Schools: A New Approach

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Many American parents are passionate about providing their children with opportunities to participate in sports and develop as great athletes. A recent article in the Financial Post posed the question “Are your kids’ athletic dreams worth breaking the bank for?” For parents of elite athletes, the costs can be astronomical. Such parents designate “tens of thousands of dollars of their household budget to help their child’s athletic career blossom, a sacrifice that impacts everything from daily spending to retirement.”

Take the case of the National Ski Academy. The mission of this private full-time school is to “provide an environment for student athletes to maximize individual potential through the pursuit of alpine ski racing excellence, academic achievement and personal growth.”

Its director, Jurg Gfeller, says parents have to be committed financially to be part of the program. “If you are here five years, you are spending $150,000 on your kids and they have already spent money before and sometimes it’s probably not finished after [you graduate],” said Gfeller.

The financial sacrifice many of these parents make for their children to excel in athletics is tremendous. Their commitment to sports is so great that they see no choice other than to provide their children with the foundation to become great athletes, regardless of the cost. “You can’t say no” says one parent, Susan Remme, who had three children attend the academy.

Now suppose for a moment that this school suddenly introduced a new scholarship program for qualifying students offering up to a 70% reduction in tuition. The only stipulation for receiving this grant of over $100,000, was that the parents must sign a moral obligation agreement requiring them to put forth a good faith ‘best effort’ in donating back to the school as much as possible while at the school and after their children graduate. The funds received from this moral obligation would enable the school to provide the same assistance to others in need.

What would you say the reaction would be from the parents? Astonishment. Disbelief. Then, when the reality set in that the offer was genuine, can you imagine the level of heartfelt gratitude and endless appreciation? In exchange for well over $100,000 in tuition assistance in training and educating these budding athletes, the only requirement is the expectation for the parents to do their sincere best to allocate as much of their charitable donations as possible to the school. Is there any doubt the parents would feel so indebted to the school that they would go to great lengths to financially demonstrate their appreciation for years thereafter?

Jewish day schools across the country have been providing parents precisely this type of financial aid for decades. Yet how much do parents of day school students who receive this financial help give in donations while at the school and after their youngest child graduates? While to my knowledge there has not been a statistical study done on this subject, based on my experience and informal discussions I have had with other school administrators over the years, in general, it doesn’t seem to be an amount of any significance. Unfortunately this seems to be the rule rather than the exception.

Why is this so? Perhaps it is because our culture is so ingrained with a sense of entitlement that some parents feel tuition assistance is a “right” – along with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Their outlook is that despite the tens of thousands of dollars they received in reduced tuition, they have paid enough in tuition over the years to their school and choose not to allocate to it any further donations.

To be clear, I realize full well that parents have many financial obligations on their plate. Upon the graduation of their youngest child from day school, many parents have new obligations to the high schools and post-high schools their children now attend. In addition, some parents help support their married children and have other critical, sometimes even crushing, financial obligations. I am not proposing taking from these funds and directing these monies to their former day schools.

There are, however, many local, national and international organizations vying for support. Many of them serve good and vital causes. The organizations can be attractive and provide an opportunity to be part of something “exciting” or to really “make a difference.” Some even promise miraculous segulos and yeshuos. But these are discretionary charitable funds. In contrast, there is a moral obligation to make day schools a top-priority recipient.

Fighting The Tuition Crisis With Financially-Driven Parent Volunteer Programs

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

A recent CNN Money article focused on how more students than ever are requesting need-based financial aid from the private schools they attend. “Private schools are getting flooded with financial aid applications, and a growing number of the parents seeking help are earning $150,000 or more a year,” the article stated. It also pointed out that “overall, the average cost of tuition at private schools across all grades is nearly $22,000 a year, up 4% from a year ago and 26% higher than it was in the 2006-07 academic year, according to the National Association of Independent Schools.”

To make matters worse for private day schools, the recession of the past few years has adversely affected the fundraising numbers in many of these schools, especially in the geographical areas hardest hit. And if that wasn’t bad enough, once again the Obama administration, for a fifth time has proposed lowering the income tax deduction for charitable giving. By decreasing the value of itemized tax deductions for higher-income taxpayers, the president’s proposal would weaken the incentive for the wealthy to give to private day schools and other non-profit organizations.

In light of these developments, schools must consider new and innovative ways to increase income and reduce costs in order to maintain financial stability and fiscal health. One approach that should be considered is to institute a parent volunteer program. There are many schools throughout the country that have established parent volunteer programs. However, the central purpose of many of these programs is to benefit the educational quality of the school. That’s the objective behind Three for Me, a national parent volunteer organization running in thousands of schools across the U.S.

While enhancing educational quality through parent volunteer efforts is certainly worthwhile, schools should consider making financial goals the primary objective of such a program. By using the time and efforts of the parent body, schools can effectively convert hundreds of parent-hours into thousands of dollars in revenue and savings – in essence, monetizing the massive amount of man-hours of the parent body.

Many school administrations are already overworked and understaffed, so in order for such a program to succeed it would need to be low maintenance and easy to manage. Further, in order to generate the necessary volunteer hours to have a financial impact, parent participation would need to be made obligatory (staff excluded). There is a case to be made for making participation voluntary for full paying families while making financial aid grants conditional on participation. It is not unreasonable to ask the beneficiaries of financial aid to give a small amount of their time back to the school each year. However, in many schools, the perceived disparity would be a non-starter.

A little over ten years ago, the school I manage instituted such a program. We made participation obligatory for all families receiving tuition assistance and voluntary for all full-paying families. Staff was exempt. The results of the program are compelling. From a pool of approximately 200 parent volunteers, annual gross revenue raised totals on average $170,000 while annual costs savings total on average $30,000. The program’s methodology has been fine-tuned over the years so that today not only has it become a vital part of our operating budget, it takes a relatively small amount of time to administer.

Either way, undertaking and implementing such a program is a serious commitment. While the program is not difficult to manage once it is up and running, it can be somewhat time consuming to establish. In addition, there is no doubt that many parents will be less than happy with this new obligation. But by having the parents give back a minimum of one or two hours each month, the increase in revenue and cost savings can bring great financial relief to the school especially in these very difficult economic times.

Finally, it should be pointed out that this is only part of an overall solution. Schools need to adapt many of the best practices in corporate management in order to grow and thrive. Foremost is implementing strong and effective internal and financial controls and then training the staff with the knowledge to execute these controls properly. This should be done in conjunction with establishing proper governance and long-term strategic planning with active parent involvement.

A Weekend To Remember: Reflections on the OU’s Marriage Retreat

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

“You’re going where?! That sounds interesting. What is it?” This response we received from friends when we mentioned our plan to attend the Orthodox Union’s Marriage Enrichment Retreat this past July reflected the very same questions we were thinking. And it was with those thoughts that we went to the retreat – interested but unsure of what exactly we were getting into. A nice hotel, no kids, good food and maybe some interesting workshops.

Having been married for some 16 years, we decided to do something a little different from our standard summer one-night, two-day getaway and ventured into this idea of “making a good marriage even better.”

The ride up from Baltimore to Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey alone was worth it as we had four hours of uninterrupted time to just talk. With anticipation, we pulled up to the Hilton and began noticing the other participants carrying their hat/sheitel boxes and rolling suitcases.

After checking in and receiving our nametags (detailing where we were from and the number of years married) we strolled to the welcoming buffet. Sitting down in the comfortable room to a wide array of appealing food, we began to get a taste of the beautiful and inspiring weekend that was about to begin.

At this point, we were still somewhat nervous about what the weekend would entail. Was this retreat for older married couples? Was it for couples with serious relationship issues? Would we agree in terms of hashkafa with the topics and the speakers? Nevertheless, it was with an open mind and satiated stomach that we got ready for Shabbos.

The choices of workshops and topics ran the gamut for all ages and stages of marriage – including remarriages and blended families. With topics like “Learning to Grow Together…and Not Apart: Actualizing Emotional Closeness”; “The Overscheduled Marriage: Finding Time for Each Other”; “How to Fight Fairly”; “Communication: I’m Listening…Are You Still Talking?”; and “Dating Never Stops: Creative and Fun Ways to Still Court Your Spouse,” it was sometimes tough to choose which of the workshops to attend. We mutually agreed on the ones most fitting for our situation and attended the same workshops where possible. For the separate sessions on intimacy we parted ways and then compared notes afterward.

Back-to-back sessions left little time for us to discuss what we learned, but we certainly came away with lots of food for thought for the four-hour journey home.

Our fears of hashkafic discordance went unfounded as we saw and heard the high caliber of the speakers and were treated to some beautiful divrei Torah. We came away relaxed and rejuvenated both physically and spiritually and were ready to synchronize all that we had learned.

There were also unexpected benefits. Most inspiring was the array of people who attended the retreat. There was every color of the “Jewish Rainbow” present – truly a sense of Mah tovu ohalecha Yaakov. The Kabbalas Shabbos service was quite uplifting and set the tone for the rest of the weekend. Mealtimes (and snack times) offered the opportunity to mingle and meet others in a relaxed and friendly environment. After all, we were all here for the same purpose, no matter what hue you represented in that rainbow.

As the retreat unfolded and we were able to meet more people, we saw there were both young and old in terms of ages and stages.

We were glad the participants were asked to sit at different tables for each meal, which afforded us the opportunity to meet more couples. We sat with people married for less than a year and with couples together for 20-plus years; people marrying off their first child and people who had married several children. Some of the best advice and conversation came from these couples at spontaneous discussions throughout the different meals.

Listening to all the potential and actual problems that arise during marriage was a real eye-opener to us and gave us new appreciation for our own marriage, for what we have as a couple, as separate individuals and, ultimately, as a family, baruch Hashem.

We would like to take this opportunity to express our hakaras hatov, which we experienced on many levels. First, to the OU, especially organizer Frank Buchweitz; then to the caterer and the hotel staff for their high level of professionalism and sensitivity. No detail was overlooked in terms of luxurious comfort and the more sublime aspects of davening, kashrut (of course, it’s the OU!), and shmiras Shabbos. We also wish to express hakaras hatov to the speakers for their obvious dedication in preparing for the multiple workshops and for the time they set aside for private consultations.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/a-weekend-to-remember-reflections-on-the-ous-marriage-retreat/2010/09/21/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: